The moral power of gay dollars

In today’s culture, money and religion create a strange alliance in influencing public policy. And in the past four decades, no group has wielded as much influence in American politics as the Religious Right’s money-driven agenda to promulgate its anti-gay crusade.

But to counteract its exclusionary rhetoric and polices that have influenced both the church and state, an important question is raised: What is the moral imperative to supporting our LGBTQ organizations? How must we stop the Religious Right’s anti-gay agenda?

In other words, are we willing to put our money where our mouth is to shut the Religious Right up?

Published in In Newsweekly, March 22, 2007. 

The Gill Foundation, which hosts the National OutGiving Conference, aims to do just that. With “Faith and Religion” as one of its core areas of interest, the Gill Foundation wants to direct its dollars to counter anti-gay religious organizations by supporting pro-LGBTQ faith-based media, religious resourcing, denominational groups, state clergy coalitions and seminaries. Its other two core areas of interest are “Youth” and “Leadership Development.”

Held this past weekend in Pasadena, Calif., the National Outgiving Conference provided an opportunity for philanthropists to develop strategies that will increase their effectiveness in philanthropic giving, and in discerning the most strategic locations and projects for funding in our community.

With 78 percent of all American Christians in conservative denominations, and 84 percent of Americans influenced by religion, the LGBTQ movement along with political progressives must develop a national faith-led solution to overturn the homophobic tide the Religious Right uses to undermine, if not dismantle, the civil rights gains of the past decades.

However, feeling as an embattled minority under siege from so-called activist liberal judges who want to drive religion out of the public sphere, and feeling spiritually assaulted by gay activists who supposedly want to desecrate the sanctity of the institution of marriage, the Religious Right has become a well-organized, heavily funded, media savvy political constituency. Its anti-gay and anti-progressive religious rhetoric and political ideology have craftily tipped the balance of church and state. And its money-driven agenda keeps the balance tilted in its favor.

But our gay dollars can turn the tide, sending a message that attacking us has grave consequences and the reprisals could very well cost a person a job or celebrity endorsements as we have seen with retracted statements and public apologies from Isaiah Washington and Tim Hardaway.

Our gay dollars can also assert a proactive stance in which we frame the public religious discourse on our own terms.

For example, “OutGiving is more than just a gathering of philanthropists – it’s a specific, focused, and streamlined roadmap to making your dollars do more … to increase capacity on the frontlines of the fight … where they can have the greatest impact,” Tim Gill, founder and chairman of the Gill Foundation, wrote in a open letter to this year’s conference participants.

The time is now for us to assess our impact on American Christianity in this country, and to assert our muscle in today’s political landscape, especially against a party more set on winning votes at the ballot box than souls in the church.

Case in point. Ann Coulter, the mistress of anti-gay vitriol, has recently become a political liability for the Republican Party after telling a conservative gathering, “I was going to have a few comments on the other Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards, but it turns out you have to go into rehab if you use the word ‘faggot,’ so I’m kind of at an impasse, can’t really talk about Edwards.”

To turn the tide against this kind of rhetoric, we all don’t have to be wealthy philanthropists. But we do need to be willing donors who are paying attention to the monetary needs of the LGBTQ movement.

“It is crucial that the GLBT movement find new strategies and invest in fresh, creative paradigms to get us to the next level. One such organization is Truth Wins Out, an innovative group that combats the ex-gay myth, which is the destructive notion that homosexuality is unnatural and can be eradicated through prayer and therapy,” said Wayne Besen, founding director of Truth Wins Out. “So-called ex-gay leaders are regularly trotted out to lobby in state capitols and Congress against our equality. Truth Wins Out has effectively worked to help undermine this strategy and cast doubt on the effectiveness of these groups. It is in the forefront of redefining the rules in which we engage the right wing and it needs your generous support.”

There will always be a cacophony of voices among us about what is the best strategy in suppressing and stopping the Religious Right’s anti-gay agenda. And that’s fine. But the bottom line is this: our organizations need our monetary support. And putting our money where our mouths and passions are means being proactive in championing our cause.

Otherwise, our inaction and non-support of our LGBTQ organizations will hold true to the clichí that money talks and bullshit walks.

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